My Essential Clothing Challenge (Dec 2018)

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If you’re not familiar with my “Essential Challenges” then basically it’s a month-long challenge where I work on focusing on the essential aspects of one area of my life.

For December 2018, my first essential challenge, I’ve decided to focus on my clothing. Why? Because it is probably the area where I am the most comfortable and know I can make good progress.

I’ve always been a fan of clothing reductions. I’ve seen more Konmari decluttering videos on YouTube than I can even count, and I’ve even done my own decluttering rounds with my wardrobe with pretty good success.

So, what is different this time? Well, it boils down to a specific question.

An important question

In the past, my decluttering of clothes was done one of two ways.

  1. I would think about how much I had used clothing and got rid of those I didn’t use. Or,
  2. I would think about how I felt about an item of clothing, and keep only those that (in the words of Marie Kondo), “sparked joy”.

But this time I’m changing the focus of how I approach things. This time I’m starting from a different question:

What is the least amount of clothing I need to live optimally?”

The first thing you’re probably wondering is what I mean by “optimally”.

“Living optimally” means living in a way that is efficient, effective and with the least amount of stress and effort as possible.

Whereas the other methods were subject-focused, this method is process-focused. I’m not focusing on the specific items of clothing. Instead, I’m focused on the process by which I use clothes in general.

A key to essential clothing

When coming up with a list of essential clothing, one of the most important keys is to find clothing that fulfills multiple uses.

For example, if you have a shirt, find one that can be dressed up or down.  If you have a jacket, make sure you can use it for a variety of situations. Use shorts that can be used in day-to-day situations, or as athletic wear. You get the idea.

Thinking of the uses of clothing also means examining your lifestyle and the types of things you do and the events you attend.  If youʻre a college student studying art, youʻre going to have a different use for clothes than an investment banker working with hedge funds.

For me, I work in a fairly casual environment at a college, and I occasionally exercise. I also live in a tropical climate so my need for warm clothes is pretty minimal.  Ironically my office is so intensely air-conditioned that I end up wearing my warmest clothes while sitting at my desk.

My list of Essential Clothing

So, enough explanation.  Let’s get to the list.

The following list of essential clothing is what Iʻve determined is the bare minimum that I need to live an optimized life.

  • 3 pairs of pants/jeans
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of workout pants
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 8 pairs of underwear
  • 8 pairs of socks
  • 1 set of pajamas (loose shorts and a t-shirt)
  • 1 jacket
  • 3 button up shirts
  • 1 pair of shoes
  • 1 pair of house slippers
  • 1 sweatshirt/sweater

There you go.  33 items in total.

I can get into the specific reasons and uses for each item another time, but for now, let’s just say that I’ve been carefully considering these items for quite a while.

You might wonder how I came up with the quantities for each item.  This list is optimized so that, based on my clothing needs, I will only have to do laundry once a week, with just one load a week.

Not having to do laundry multiple times a week is, to me, the sign of an optimized life.

Dealing with Unused Clothes

So, you might ask, “But what are you going to do with all of your discarded clothes?”  In the past I might have given them to Goodwill right off the bat, but since this is an experiment Iʻm doing the out-of-sight-storage method.

With this method, I take the clothes that donʻt fall in that list, fold them and pack them in a box or bag, and put that box or bag in a deep dark corner of my closet.

That way, if I really need something because of a massive miscalculation, then I know where it is.  And if I come across the bag/box in 6 months and I never even opened it, then I can confidently donate them to Goodwill. If I didnʻt need any of them over a 6 month period, then I probably don’t need it.

What about clothes for traveling the world?

Now, I should also mention that, if I was on an extended trip around the world, this list would probably change.  There are a few thigns I would remove or change, and a few things I would add.

But, that is a topic for another post.  For now, this is the list for this challenge.

A Video Introduction to the Challenge

I put together a video to show you the clothes that Iʻll be wearing for the next month.  I realized while putting together the video that a lot of people actually donʻt consider a belt, a pair of shoes, socks or underwear as part of their main “clothing count”.  So, in that case my 33 items of clothing are actually more like 15 items.  Hence the title of the video. 🙂

Take a look and see what an essential clothing collection looks like (for me):

Future Updates to this Challenge

At the end of the challenge, I will put up a post and video to share how things went, what I learned, and how I will adjust my methods in the future.

So, keep your eyes peeled to this site and my YouTube channel (and see updates on Instagram) to see how I progress with my Essential Clothing challenge for December 2018.

Also, be sure to subscribe to the Walk the newsletter with the form below and Iʻll send you non-spammy updates on the latest happenings here at WTP.

Iʻd love to hear what you think of this challenge and any ideas you have for challenges in the future.  I have a bunch of ideas (posted on the main Challenge page) but Iʻm always happy to get suggestions.

Plus, how many clothes do you think you could live with?  What is your “essential clothing” number?

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